Research Interests

Genetic modification of plants with glycoside hydrolase and biocatalyst overexpression to increase the biomass pretreatability and digestibility

Genetic engineering of yeast and bacteria for the production of advanced biofuels

Biomaterials and biomanufacturing

Affiliated Research Programs

  • Targeted Microbial Development
    • Advanced concepts for producing hydrocarbons, 2015–present
  • Targeted Conversion Research
    • Biological transformation, 20122014
    • Pretreatment and biomass deconstruction process development, 2013
  • Energy Frontier Research Centers, Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, Phase I and Phase II projects
    • Tailored biomass and nano-catalysts: Manipulate the biochemical and biophysical properties of plant cell walls to enhance designated physical/chemical catalytic routes, 2009present
  • BioEnergy Science Center, Phase I and Phase II projects
    • adhE characterization and pyruvate decarboxylase engineering, 2015
    • In planta expression of glycoside hydrolases, 2012
  • Laboratory Directed Research and Development projects
    • Next-generation in planta expression of glycoside hydrolases to reduce plant cell wall recalcitrance, 2014present
    • Understanding natural paradigms for plant cell wall deconstruction: community dynamics and structure of the decaying poplar wood pile, 20082010


Ph.D., Plant and Microbial Physiology, Queen's University, 19982003

M.S., Microbiology, Central China Agricultural University, 19851988

B.S., Genetics, Wuhan University, 19811985

Professional Experience

Senior Scientist I, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), 2013present

Scientist III, NREL, 20112013

Research Associate, NREL, 20082011

Visiting Fellow, National Institutes of Health, 20052008

Postdoctoral Researcher, Iowa State University, 20032005

Research Assistant, Queen's University, 19982003

Research Scientist, Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Science, 19881998

Featured Publications

Transgenic Ferritin Overproduction Enhances Thermochemical Pretreatments in ArabidopsisBiomass Bioenergy (2015)

The transgenic Arabidopsis plants that overexpress soybean ferritin (referred to as FerIN) accumulated iron during growth under both normal and iron-augmented watering conditions. Prussian blue staining showed punctuated staining of iron predominantly on the interior surfaces of cell lumen in FerIN plants. The harvested transgenic biomass showed enhanced pretreatability in that it released 13%–19% more glucose and xylose than empty vector control plants and improved enzymatic conversion compared to plant biomass subjected to the exogenous addition of iron co-catalysts (i.e., by soaking).

Identifying the Ionically Bound Cell Wall and Intracellular Glycoside Hydrolases in Late Growth Stage Arabidopsis Stems: Implications for the Genetic Engineering of Bioenergy CropsFrontiers Plant Science (2015)

Nonstructural proteins were isolated from the late growth stage Arabidopsis whole stems, followed by the in-solution and in-gel digestion methods coupled with Nano-LC-MS/MS, bioinformatics, and literature analyses. In total, 75 proteins were identified using the in-solution method, and 236 proteins were identified using the in-gel method, among which approximately 10% of proteins were predicted to be secreted, including 7 GHs. Half of the GHs are xylan- or hemicellulose-modifying enzymes, which will likely have an impact on cellulose accessibility and have implications for the genetic engineering of bioenergy crops.

Engineering Towards a Complete Heterologous Cellulase Secretome in Yarrowia lipolytica Reveals its Potential for Consolidated BioprocessingBiotechnology for Biofuels (2014)

For the development of a direct microbial conversion platform for the production of hydrocarbon fuels from cellulosic biomass, the potential for oleaginous yeast Y. lipolytica as a consolidated bioprocessing strain was investigated by expressing critical cellulases. The expressed Trichoderma reesei - Talaromyces emersonii chimeric CBHI showed a specific activity on Avicel that is comparable to the native T. reesei CBHI and has a significant synergism with EGII and CBHII in degrading cellulose in a co-culture consortia system.

Additional Publications

In Situ Micro-Spectroscopic Investigation of Lignin in Poplar Cell Walls Pretreated by Maleic AcidBiotechnology for Biofuels (2015)

Chapter 1: Feedstock Engineering and Biomass Pretreatments: New Views for a Greener Biofuels Process, in Direct Microbial Conversion of Biomass to Advanced Biofuels (2015)

Chapter 10: Identification of Genetic Targets to Improve Lignocellulosic Hydrocarbon Production in Trichoderma reesei Using Public Genomic and Transcriptomic Datasets, in Direct Microbial Conversion of Biomass to Advanced Biofuels (2015)

Comparison of Transcriptional Profiles of Clostridium thermocellum Grown on Cellobiose and Pretreated Yellow Poplar Using RNA-SeqFrontiers in Microbiology (2014)

Heterologous Expression of Xylanase Enzymes in Lipogenic Yeast Yarrowia lipolyticaPLOS One (2014)

Chapter 2: Basic Biological Research Relevant to Feedstock Conversion, Compendium of Bioenergy Plants: Corn (2014)

NIR and Py-mbms Coupled with Multivariate Data Analysis as a High-Throughput Biomass Characterization Technique: A ReviewFrontiers in Plant Science (2014)

Genomic, Proteomic, and Biochemical Analyses of Oleaginous Mucor circinelloides: Evaluating its Capability in Utilizing Cellulolytic Substrates for Lipid ProductionPLOS One (2013)

Analysis of Transgenic Glycoside Hydrolases Expressed in Plants: T. reesei CBH I and A. cellulolyticus EIBiomass Conversion: Methods in Molecular Biology (2012)

Tracking Dynamics of Biomass Composting by Monitoring the Changes in Substrate Structure, Microbial Community, and Enzyme ActivityBiotechnology for Biofuels (2012)

Elucidating the Role of Ferrous Ion Cocatalyst in Enhancing Dilute Acid Pretreatment of Lignocellulosic BiomassBiotechnology for Biofuels (2011)

Natural Paradigms of Plant Cell Wall DegradationCurrent Opinion in Biotechnology (2009)

View all NREL Publications for Hui Wei.